Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus on Calvary, the site just outside the walls of Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified. It falls on the Friday before Easter. Most Christian denominations recognize Good Friday as a holy day, with many, including members of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran faiths, fasting and attending church services. But there is so much more to this holiday than just these religious rituals. Good Friday is, for many, an intensely personal day of prayer and devotion. Let’s take a closer look.
Good Friday timeline
- 33 AD
Jesus hung on the cross between two thieves for six hours before dying. He would be resurrected the following Sunday, now known as Easter Sunday.
- 29 AD
John baptized Jesus
Jesus began his own ministry shortly thereafter.
- 4 BC
Jesus was born
Historians generally agree the birth happened in Bethlehem between 6 BC and 4 BC.
How to Observe Good Friday
Many Christian churches hold prayer services during the hours of Christ's crucifixion. Many religious people observe a period of prayerful silence during this time, especially between the hours of noon and 3pm.
Depending on your Christian denomination, it may be appropriate to fast on Good Friday. It is a traditional day of fasting within the Catholic Church, for example.
Jesus stressed the need to help those less fortunate than ourselves. If your religious beliefs allow it, consider volunteering at your church or in your community on this day in the spirit of giving back.
3 Good Friday Oddities
The name "Good Friday" goes back centuries
The earliest known use of the name "Good Friday" goes back to about 1290 in a text called "The South English Legendary."
Go fly a kite
In Bermuda it's traditional to fly a kite on Good Friday, symbolizing both the cross and Jesus rising to heaven.
According to Christian tradition, when Jesus was crucified, there was darkness across the land and an earthquake.
Why Good Friday is Important
It's a holy day
Jesus was forced to carry his cross to Calvary, where he was crucified alongside two criminals. He remained alive on the cross for up to six hours. According to biblical tradition, from noon to 3pm of that day, the sky grew dark.
We're reminded of Jesus' sacrifice
Christian doctrine teaches that Jesus was born to a virgin, Mary. As an adult, he became a preacher, performing miracles, and then was put to death by authorities. This sacrifice allowed for the forgiving or pardoning of Christians' sins.
Just about every scholar of antiquity believes that Jesus was a historical figure. New Testament expert Bart Ehrman writes that "(Jesus) certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees."